Tuesday, November 7, 2017

OSR Commentary B/X Dungeons & Dragons Blues plus Lovecraftian Underworlds

So lately I've been falling back in with B/X Dungeons & Dragons as well as Advanced Dungeons & Dragons first edition spliced with Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea second edition & Adventurer, Conqueror, King. So like every other OSR Dungeon Master out there I mix & match systems. House rule where & when necessary. So there's no 'perfect' system, I waffle about Goblinoid Games Labyrinth Lord.
Then suddenly I'm back to B/X like an ex girl friend sure we've had our differences but she knows my needs. There's always one prevailing ideal throughout Dungeons & Dragons regardless of edition. The idea of the dungeon as entrance to the 'mythological underworld.'  
Lovecraft dabbled, skirted & outright plugged into the notion of the Chthonic underworld for his Cthulhu Mythos novels  especially the blatantly racist Horror At Red Hook. As an Italian descendant of immigrants I find Lovecraft's New England curmudgeon racism laughable one hundred years later. Lovecraft like many other writers of the time was a product of his times. The wiki entry on the Horror At Red Hook makes his sources abundantly clear but given his gifts of the Cthulhu Mythos to the world & as patronage of other writers of his circle.

""Lovecraft referred to the area's immigrant population by referring to Red Hook as "a maze of hybrid squalor".[3] He spelled out his inspiration for "The Horror at Red Hook" in a letter written to fellow writer Clark Ashton Smith: The idea that black magic exists in secret today, or that hellish antique rites still exist in obscurity, is one that I have used and shall use again. When you see my new tale "The Horror at Red Hook", you will see what use I make of the idea in connexion with the gangs of young loafers & herds of evil-looking foreigners that one sees everywhere in New York""

Lovecraft stands as a walking contradiction of his times both as product & writer. Dismissing Lovecraft as simply an "American horror asshole writer of the 1920's" misses the point. Simply ignoring the history of racisim doesn't make it go away but instead let's it take root again in a society that has long since moved on (or have we).


But the real heart of the strangeness of the 'Horror At Red Hook'  is the warrens, tunnels, & underworld of Lovecraft's  New York City; we see  places & lairs so dangerous that given ghouls, cannibal families, & more makes New York City a superb dungeon location. But there are others along the Eastern Seaboard of America that cut right into the early traditions of science fiction & Weird tales style stories. 

I've been rereading a lot of the early science fiction pulp adventures & 'lost world' novellas, a name that I've seen come up repeatedly is L. (Lucile) Taylor Hansen. She was one of the early Gernsback science fiction writers who used a male writing name. She's not that well known out of certain pulp, lost world, & early science fiction groups. "L. (Lucile) Taylor Hansen is the author of eight short stories, nearly sixty nonfiction articles popularizing anthropology and geology, and three nonfiction books."
Her writing hit on many controversial aspects of science fiction speculation
& minor dogma such as the last vestiges of scientific racism which fell away in the years before World War II.
 But one of her earliest tales "The Undersea Tube", her first published story, took the cover of the November 1929 issue of Amazing Stories 
& contains a several very interesting tid bits including an international underworld tube train, the volcanic dangers associated with such a network, & a possible colony of
subterranean civilization, the realm of K'n-yan! Under the Atlantic Basin there could be a network of tunnels & subterranean cities waiting for just the right moment to unleash hoards of under horrors & incredible monsters upon the upper realm.

Because that's exactly what happens upon 'Old Earth' in my current line of a campaign. But it also means that the subtrains of Empire of the Petal Throne & Gamma World have been with us for a very long time. There might be countless cities of the under Earth both inhabited and abandoned waiting for adventurers to find em.
Even Edgar Rice Burroughs made certain references to such possible underworld cities & locations. Pulp Pecullidar by Den Valdron has some excellent  connections in it outlined & referenced leaving a wealth of possible adventure lead ins for an enterprising DM to exploit. For an Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea Dungeon master there are all kinds of possible connections and such to exploit for adventure design.

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